Monday, May 30, 2005

Robot Bug To Explore Intenstines

Robot combined with swallowable camera could give docs a better look inside the small intestine Gutcheck

Monday, May 30, 2005
By Byron Spice, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Metin Sitti, director of the NanoRobotics Lab, is developing a set of legs that could be incorporated into the swallowable camera-in-a-pill that has become available in the past four years for diagnosing gastrointestinal disorders in the small intestine.

But Sitti is hoping that adding legs to the capsule will give physicians a measure of control. The work is supported by the Intelligent Microsystems Center in Seoul, Korea, and sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy.

Polymer pads on the leg tips, mimicking the adhesive foot pads of the palmetto beetle, would stick to the intestinal walls. The adhesive foot pads require very little pressure, yet enable the beetle to withstand forces of more than 200 times its body weight.

A more elaborate, telescoping capsule, featuring a set of three legs on either end, would enable it to crawl as if it were inchworm. The capsule could thus go rapidly to a point of interest or, if sufficient power was available, move upstream to give doctors a second look at a suspicious lesion.

echnologists have long speculated about the potential for medical/surgical robots that could maneuver inside the body. Another CMU roboticist, Cameron Riviere, is developing his own robotic inchworm that would use suction pads to adhere to the exterior of a beating heart. The two-footed device, called HeartLander, might be used to inject cells or drugs, implant electrodes or perform coronary artery bypass procedures.

In addition to equipping the robot with biopsy capability, it also might be used to deliver anti-inflammatory or other medications. Lebovitz said that a robot equipped with a flashing light might even help surgeons find a diseased area that needs to be excised.

For that matter, Sitti said, it may be possible to someday equip an intestinal robot to perform surgeries beyond just biopsies. But for now, developing a robot that could improve diagnosis of digestive tract disease is the immediate concern.

Robot combined with swallowable camera could give docs a better look inside the small intestine


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